2010 dress rehearsal kicks off in less than a month

Friday, May 15, 2009

It was on this day five years ago that FIFA President Sepp Blatter opened an envelope and slid out a piece of paper with South Africa's name on it - announcing who had won the bid to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, writes Bathandwa Mbola.

Since then South Africa has become a construction site of activity with stadia being built, transport systems in the host cities overhauled, safety and security beefed up, volunteers trained, tourism boosted and excitement stirring.

South Africa is now less than a month away from the "dress rehearsal" event, the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.

"We have come a long way since 2004 and with only a month to go before the Confeds Cup," said Chief Executive Officer of the Organising Committee Danny Jordaan.

Tournaments will take place at five sites, namely Ellis Park in Johannesburg, Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth and Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.

The first match will kick off in exactly one month at Johannesburg's Ellis Park Stadium with host South Africa up against Asian champions Iraq. Bafana Bafana coach Joel Santana has already named his 30-man provisional squad which will represent South Africa.

The tournament will see Brazil, Copa America winners, African champions Egypt, first-time Asian champions Iraq, World Champions Italy, Oceania champions New Zealand, hosts South Africa, European champions Spain, and CONCACAF Gold Cup winners, the USA, fighting for the cup.

The event, often referred to as the "Champions of Champions", aims to give the top teams from all continents a chance to represent their region in a world play-off. It is an important opportunity for teams from developing football continents.

A total of 351 121 tickets have now been sold of the 640 000 available for the Confederations Cup.

Newly appointed Gauteng MEC for Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation Nelisiwe Mbatha- Mtimkulu has urged South Africans to show their passion for the beautiful game by buying tickets.

In a statement, she said it was important for all Gauteng residents and South Africans in general to embrace the competition.

About 95 percent of the tickets sold so far for the Confederations Cup, have been purchased by South Africans.

Ms Mbatha-Mtimkulu is expected to announce a promotional campaign in support of the Confederations Cup and 2010 World Cup next week.

"With the launch of our campaign in just over a week's time, we will be going out to the people of Gauteng with one message: It starts here, it starts with us and more importantly, it starts with you."

A survey by an international research agency and distributed by FIFA, shows 89 percent of South Africans believe that hosting these events will bring long-term benefits.

Among the likely benefits cited were improvements in South Africa's image abroad and better transport and telecommunications.

Meanwhile, the high levels of crime have always been a concern, but National Police Spokesperson Director Sally de Beer believes that South Africa's track record speaks for itself.

"In recent weeks we have had an incident-free elections, incident-free Presidential Inauguration and the current Indian Premier League cricket has also been incident-free."